[Newsletter Fall 1987]
The Rosses of Shandwick and the Jacobite Era
by David Ross of Ross and Shandwick
The Chief of Clan Ross researches and writes of the Ross support of The Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie and belief in the Stewart cause.
Those members of Clan Ross who have an interest in the history of the Clan will be aware that after the death of David, 13th of Balnagown in 1711, the property and Chiefship passed to the Rosses of Hawkhead (Halkhead). The family were of Lowland/Norman origin and therefore not “of the blood,” were totally unrelated to the original Balnagown family, and through them to the 13th century Earldom of Ross, from whom I am descended as representer of the Rosses of Shandwick.
To assist readers, some period of history might be advantageous. The Act of Union, or Union of Parliaments, between Scotland and the remainder of the United Kingdom was signed in 1707, just four years earlier. There was considerable political turmoil and resentment among the vast majority of Scots from practically every section of the population. This Union of Parliament was undoubtedly “bought with English gold” as the song says, but needed the complicity of influential Scots to make it succeed. One of the thirty-one Commissioners for this Union was Lord Ross of Hawkhead, and there is little doubt this would have helped in the negotiations to take over the Balnagown estates and assume the Chiefship.
At the same time, there was turmoil over the future of the Monarchy. In 1704, the Scottish Parliament passed an Act of Security which the last of the House of Stewart was forced to recognise, giving the Scots the opportunity to choose their own Monarch, but in retaliation, the English Parliament passed the Aliens Act making Scots aliens or foreigners within England. This not-so-subtle pressure led to an Incorporating Union instead of a Federal Union which most Scots would have preferred. On top of this, the last Stewart Monarch, Queen Ann, died in 1714 ushering in the German House of Hanover, a form of succession the Scots had to accede to also.
Is it any wonder that with all this political activity there should be those who saw the re-establishment of the House of Stewart as a priority to regaining independence, or whatever else they had lost? We know that there were substantial numbers of Rosses who were sympathetic to the Stewart cause and of the Rosses there appears to have been one significant Ross family who were supportive; though as was the Scottish habit of the time, in order to maintain a level of survival there were always those who aided the other side. This is called “having your cake and eating it.”
It is my view very likely that the cause of the duel between Hugh Ross of Achnacloich and Hugh Ross of Shandwick in June 1721 was at least partly political, since it is significant that Shandwick fled to Gothenburg in Sweden, the home of many Jacobite exiles. We know that he was joined there by other members of his family, including his younger brothers Alexander and George, and nephew Andrew McCulloch who was the son of his sister, Isabella, and Robert McCulloch, a merchant in Tain.
Now to bring the story up-to-date: there is a presentation to the City of Aberdeen of a Christmas tree each November by the City of Gothenburg to celebrate the ancient Swedish Festival of Light. It was during a dinner to celebrate this event in November 1984 that I mentioned the Swedish connections of my family to a Swedish acquaintance.
The following November I was invited to attend a dinner at Gothenburg’s famous Town Hall, at the end of which, Doctor Göran Behre, Professor of History at the University of Gothenburg, whom I had not met before, was asked to give a speech about the enormous Scots influence on Sweden, and especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a very dramatic way, he announced that there was present that evening, a person who was directly descended from a man who had contributed much to both countries, one Hugh Ross if Shandwick, whose nephew, Andrew McCulloch, he commissioned to be the leader of the official French attempt to rescue Charles Edward Stewart after the battle of Culloden in 1746. I was presented with a copy of the article Behre wrote for the Scottish Historical Revue of October 1980*, and a photocopy of the account of settlement of the estate of Andrew McCulloch, who unfortunately died in 1748; this has been translated from Swedish of the time. You will note the names of both Alexander and Hugh Ross who owed the enormous sum of nearly 18,000 Swedish silver dollars. Doubtless this had something to do with the “Pollux” rescue expedition, and I wonder if he was ever paid by the French Government.
Our family had, through Hugh’s older brother William, purchased the lands of Kerse and Skeldon in Aryshire between 1728 and 1737 and it was there Alexander died, unmarried, in 1775. William was drowned, unmarried also, in 1739, thus leaving these estates to my great, great, great, great-grandfather. They unfortunately passed out of my family in the late 1700s, but Skeldon House still remains, a really beautiful building.
It was something of a co-incidence that an artcile about Andrew McCulloch headed, “The Voyage of the Pollux,” appeared in “The Scots Magazine” in May 1986 and was first seen by Bill and Betty Ross on a visit to Scotland. I have asked Betty, as the editor of the newsletter, to re-arrange the material to suit the newsletter format, so that members can enjoy more of this fascinating story.
NOTE: A representation of this article, along with a more in-depth account, is posted on the Tain & District Museum and Clan Ross